Monday, July 16, 2007

When Sexual Abuse Masquerades as gay

Homosexual behavior doesn’t mean a man is gay or even bi, he can simply be left with an imprint to re-enact his abuse and find “pleasure” in what was inflicted on him as a child. This really isn’t pleasure at all, but trauma turned into orgasm.

In their book, Male Victims of Same-Sex Abuse: Addressing Their Sexual Response by John M. Preble and A. Nicholas Groth say it best:

. . . this may actually reflect an effort at mastery of the traumatic event . . . when he was being sexually victimized, someone else was in control of him sexually. During masturbation he is literally in control of himself sexually, and this may be a way in which he attempts to reclaim mastery over his own sexuality. Likewise, his participation in consensual sex reflects his choice and decision.

The authors go on to say that “the fantasy thoughts are prompted by fear more than desire, by anxiety more than pleasure.” In other words, they become a way of managing fear and anxiety. Larry is a good example.

Larry was a 47-year-old school teacher whose wife of 7 years threatened to divorce him. She had caught him in gay chat rooms and emailing other men about possibly hooking up. Might he be gay? He told me, “I don’t care if I am gay. I just need to know. I’ve worried about this since I was a teenager.

Larry told me that his male-male interests were about big erect penises that he could fellate. His searched the Internet to find men who wanted oral service and would show their erections on webcams. While Larry seldom ever met these men, he had done so a handful of times since he was 23 years old.

Larry also told me he’d never enjoyed any of these encounters. He would meet them, and orally please them, but feel sick and emotionally shamed.

At age 19, Larry had assumed his fantasies of fellating other men meant he was gay. He never felt romantic or sexual interest in other males while growing up, but told his father that he was convinced that this sexual fantasy was the start of his being “a homosexual.” Angry and upset, his father insisted that Larry was not gay and told him to never bring it up again. To Larry, this meant that he was on his own with these “deviant” fantasies.

While doing a thorough history on Larry, I asked about sexual abuse. He said, “None.” After asking this initial question, however, I always educate the client further by explaining that sexual abuse can be covert too; “It can feel right and good to you as a young boy. but really be abusive, based on the who the perpetrator is.”

Larry then recalled a memory that haunts him to this day.

When he was 10 years old, he and his older brother and cousin—both age 15—were at the cousin’s house. Larry looked up to these two and felt privileged to hang out with them doing “older boy” things. His brother and cousin were chewing some bubble gum and Larry asked if he could have a piece. The cousin said, “You can, as long as you give us a blow job.” Larry’s brother agreed, to which Larry said no. They continued chewing the gum. But A few minutes later, Larry’s desire for acceptance and belonging made him agree. His cousin pulled out his erection, and as soon as Larry began fellating him, both he and Larry’s brother made fun of him.
Afterward they threw a piece of gum at him and made him pick it up off the floor. That was then end of the episode—and the one and only time it happened.

How to help Larry:

I asked about the men Larry talked to on the internet. What did they look like? How old were they? Did he pursue them or was he pursued? Looking for clues into his interest in being with these men, I asked what they looked like—particularly if he looked up at them while fellating them.

Larry reported that he didn’t look up, nor did he care what the men looked like. All he focused on was the erection, and the bigger it was, the more arousing.

Now I understood the link. Larry was not closeted and in the process of coming out, but a heterosexual who was reenacting his sexual abuse—being and humiliated and shamed at age 10. When he told his father, “I think I might be gay,” he was really looking for comfort, admitting that he’d been sexually abused. Had his father questioned him further and let the conversation continue, that would have become obvious.

Was Larry’s compulsive searching the Internet for erections to fellate was his psyche’s way of seeking resolution from that sexual abuse? When I verbally presented this possibility to Larry, he began to sob uncontrollably. He finally connected to his childhood sexual abuse and what was driving his sexual-acting out.

Larry’s treatment now was to work on his childhood sexual abuse, and doing so reduced his urges to connect with men. He still had fantasies—which were normal from homosexual imprinting—but no longer felt compelled to act on them.

In learning this he could explain to his wife what his behaviors were about and she developed compassion around his past abuse and suffering rather than feeling violated that he was cheating on her or that it was about the marriage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

'This really isn’t pleasure at all, but trauma turned into orgasm.'

Your definition of pleasure is very odd. Trauma turned into orgasm sounds like pleasure to me. After all, how is orgasm not pleasurable?